That book is the Woman in White, a story in which an Evil Baronet marries a beautiful innocent young lady, and then to get her money he swaps her out for her doppelganger (possible illegitimate half-sister) who is dying. Real wife goes in the asylum under her doppelganger’s identity, fake wife dies and leaves husband to enjoy all her money. He is aided in his plot by an Even More Evil Count, and foiled in his plot by the Beautiful Ingenue’s Poor But Virtuous Suitor and Her Feisty Older Sister.
This story is super implausible, but not for the reasons you think.
Wilkie Collins, the author of this book, had at least three personal acquaintances who had actually shut up their actual wives in madhouses with no trouble.
The only time it didn’t work out was with the Bulwer-Lyttons.
ROSINA BULWER-LYTTON: I’m very angry with my husband!
DOCTORS: Very angry, eh? And you’re a lady. Sounds hysterical to me!
ROSINA BULWER-LYTTON: He let my daughter die in a cheap hotel and wouldn’t even let me see her!
DOCTORS: Women! Get all worked up over the least little thing. Well, she definitely seems crazy, throw her in the loony bin.
EDWARD BULWER-LYTTON: Woo hoo! Everything’s coming up EDWARD! Time to run for office!
THE PRESS: Time to dig up dirt!
THE PRESS: … Did you just lock up your wife for literally no reason only five minutes ago?
EDWARD BULWER-LYTTON: … Maybe.
DOCTORS: In retrospect our diagnosis of ‘crazy’ might have been a little hasty. It’s possible we meant to write ‘cranky’ on those reports…
ROSINA BULWER-LYTTON: I am free. And in a shocking turn of events, I am EVEN MORE ANGRY than before.
EDWARD BULWER-LYTTON: Women! Get all worked up over the least little thing.
ENGLAND: Let that be a lesson not to lock up your wife in a madhouse when it’s election year.
ENGLAND: Any other year is cool.
So, as you can see, The Woman In White is a Gothic. People taking terrible advantage of innocent young things. Shadow selves that spell disaster. The Right Man and the Wrong Man. The Right House (it’s called Limmeridge) and the Wrong House (it’s called Blackwater, and might as well be called Fortress of Evil Doompants). Terrible family secrets! Ladies accused of being mad, and wondering if they are actually going mad.
But The Woman In White is not just a Gothic. It has a lady sleuth. It is a TWO FOR ONE.
Very few Gothics do, because the Gothic Heroine is spending so much time running away from danger with speed, or being understandably confused. But The Woman In White has two heroines, the innocent Laura and her half-sister, Marian.
Miss Marian Halcombe is a badass. Nobody is stealing her sister’s identity and locking her up in a loony bin on Marian’s watch.
But we open with our hero. Tragically, we only have one of those. His name is Walter.
WALTER: I am a drawing master offered the chance to go down to a country house and teach two young ladies how to draw. Hope they’ll be hot. Hot and rich.
PESCA: I am the Italian friend who offered Walter this chance!
WALTER: Heh, yeah. He’s my friend. Heh, ITALIANS. He’s so short, and he thinks he can play sports like Englishmen can! He tried to swim and I had to rescue him, of course. Not hearty and athletic like the sons of England! Foreigners are hilarious!
PESCA: My pal the xenophobe. You should totally marry one of these hot ladies down the country and be rich. Marry up, buddy!
WALTER: I find your ideas compelling, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
ANNE CATHERICK: Hi I am a strange lady dressed all in white who’s going to creepily creep up on you in the dead of night!
WALTER: Ahhhhhhh! Ahhhhhhh! Ahhhhhh! Are you a GHOST?
ANNE CATHERICK: No, dude. Pull yourself together. I’m just escaping from a madhouse.
WALTER: Oh, that’s all right then.
WALTER: Hang on a minute. Come again?
ANNE CATHERICK: Hail a cab for me, would you, buddy?
WALTER: Well. I guess it’s wrong to lock sane ladies up in madhouses. And this lady is touching my arm. It’s kind of sexy.
ANNE CATHERICK: You’re a gent.
WALTER: Well here I am at breakfast in Limmeridge House. Hope breakfast will be… hot.
LADY’S BACK VIEW: *is very promising*
WALTER: I like big butts and I can not lie
You other brothers can't deny
That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist
And a round thing in your face
You get sprung!
LADY’S FRONT VIEW: Hi, I’m Marian.
WALTER: DEAR GOD WHAT IS THAT THING.
MARIAN: Hey, so while you were standing around admiring my ass—
WALTER: Her jaw’s all firm, and she doesn’t even look gentle, and ugh, what, is that—does she almost have a mustache, upper lip too downy, may day, may day, too downy-
MARIAN: --thought I’d introduce myself—
WALTER: Oh God, why wouldst thou waste dat ass on such a face. DAT ASS.
MARIAN: And your name is?
AUDIENCE: This is Walter ‘Asshole’ Hartright.
MARIAN: So I’ve been brought up by society to believe women are terrible, although from what I can see dudes are all terrible too, and I love my half-sister but I am desperate to talk to an intellectual equal! Seriously, I have low self esteem because I’m not hot and I’m poor and I’m a lady, therefore the world has informed me I am worthless, but oddly I’m super smart and I enjoy intelligent conversation, so do you think we could get along?
WALTER: … I do like the low self esteem. Shows proper thinking.
MARIAN: … Good enough.
WALTER: And you have an old governess who I’m going to be dismissing, hell, old women, ugly women, what are you people even for. Where is your sister?
MARIAN: Upstairs with a headache. She’s delicate, as ladies should be.
WALTER: So she’s the hot one.
MARIAN: And the rich one.
WALTER: Your information interests me, and I’d like to subscribe to your newsletter.
MARIAN: Here’s my sister painting under the trees…
WALTER: Please be hot please be hot please be hot—
LAURA: I’m hot!
WALTER: Praise the Lord!
LAURA: And gullible.
WALTER: Oh yeah, baby, this just keeps getting better.
WALTER: Let me tell you about this mysterious thing that happened to me with a mad lady, Marian. She totally mentioned this house.
MARIAN: You did totally right to help that girl escape! Liberty! Also, a mystery? I’m going to SLEUTH! I’ve got all my mom’s letters and I’ve worked out who the girl is. Anything else you can think that’s weird about Anne Catherick and related to us?
WALTER: Something… connected to Laura… something, like maybe… on the tip of my tongue. No, it’s gone.
MARIAN: Anything about Anne Catherick basically being a clone of Laura?
WALTER: Damn! You’re right! They look the exact same!
MARIAN: … That one just got by you, huh, Walter?
WALTER: But Laura’s the hot one. That’s right, Laura baby, you’re the hot clone! *finger guns*
WALTER: Oh lovely days at Limmeridge, where I get to touch Laura’s hair and her hand and listen to her play music and look down her dress. I love Laura so truly!
AUDIENCE: Do you ever talk to her?
WALTER: No! Silly audience. Marian’s the one for talking to.
MARIAN: So I can’t help noticing you and Laura are in love with each other.
MARIAN: Buddy, in the world we live in, my sister’s life would not be improved by marrying penniless drawing masters. But more importantly, she’s totally engaged.
WALTER: What is there to do?
MARIAN: Four letters. Believe me when I say, GTFO.
WALTER: Oh my lost love!
MARIAN: Yes. Very touching. Don’t let the door hit you on the way OUT.
ANNE CATHERICK: Dear Laura, don’t marry Sir Percy Fiend. He’s a bad guy and totally locked me up in a madhouse against my will because I know a dark secret about him. Signed, someone anonymous but maybe dressed in white.
WALTER: I like this anonymous letter writer’s style. Let’s corner this frightened mentally disabled woman in a graveyard and get the secret out of her!
MARIAN: … I’m going back to the house.
WALTER: Tell me the secret, or I’ll think you belong in a madhouse!
ANNE CATHERICK: And I’m out!
WALTER: I think I said something to upset her, but I’m not sure what.
MARIAN: You’re not exactly detective material, are you?
WALTER: This is a pickle, Marian! What are we going to do?
MARIAN: You’re gonna scram. Go on, get out of here, buddy. Marian’s on the case.
WALTER: I’m out!
SIR PERCY MCEVIL: I’m in!
MARIAN: Kindly lawyer friend, has Sir Percy Devilface ever struck you as kind of sketch?
KINDLY LAWYER FRIEND: Nope! Though the fact he wants to have all Laura’s cash left to him and no-one else on her death is a little gross.
LAURA’S UNCLE: Let him have the cash! Dudes love cash! And you know what else dudes love? Peace and quiet. I’m really hoping Sir Percy Villainous Countenance will take both these broads off my hands.
KINDLY LAWYER FRIEND: But maybe Laura’s thoughts on the subject matter?
LAURA’S UNCLE: Thoughts? I was not aware ladies were allowed to have those!
LAURA: I’m going to tell Sir Percy Cruelpants that I will marry him, but I love another, so he won’t want to marry me.
MARIAN: Well, he will if he doesn’t give a crap about your feelings, though?
LAURA: Nonsense, I’m sure this will work out awesome. Sir Percy Blackheart, I love someone else and I don’t wanna marry you. Still want to marry me?
SIR PERCY RIDICULOUSLY EVIL: Still rich?
SIR PERCY THE PERFIDIOUS: Then yes.
LAURA: … That did not go the way it did in my head.
MARIAN: Seriously though, does anyone else have a bad feeling about Sir Percy Monsterface?
KINDLY LAWYER FRIEND: Nope. Seems a great guy.
LAURA’S UNCLE: True blue. Solid gold.
MARIAN: Got a lot of debts, though?
KINDLY LAWYER FRIEND: Uh, that’s what Laura’s fortune is for, silly.
LAURA’S UNCLE: I don’t think of them as ‘debts’ so much as ‘wise investments in tons of loose women and alcohol.’
MARIAN: Bit old for Laura, though?
KINDLY LAWYER FRIEND: Nah, he’s matured like a fine wine.
LAURA’S UNCLE: Yeah, the dude’s a silver fox.
KINDLY LAWYER FRIEND: So the wedding’s on?
LAURA’S UNCLE: On like Donkey Kong!
MARIAN: You got anything to say at this point, Laura?
LAURA: Nothing matters anymore. Don’t bother me while I’m listening to the Smiths.
LAURA’S PET POODLE: Woof woof pure evil woof!
MARIAN: … Well, you’re no help.
MARIAN: All you have to do is tell me to go down there and tell Sir Percy, Baronet and Supreme Gitface, that you’re not marrying him. Seriously, just say the word. I will go down there and I will rain down UNHOLY FIRE.
LAURA: Alas, I must marry him, I am doomed forevermore.
MARIAN: I’ll set fire to his wig, then I’ll set fire to his carriage, then I’ll set fire to the church. Just say the word. The word can be ‘Fire.’
LAURA: I can’t upset my uncle and Sir Percy Demonface by acting as if my thoughts and wishes matter, Marian. Just think of how distressed and perhaps even inconvenienced they might be!
MARIAN: I ain’t care. Marian don’t give a … fig.
MARIAN: Look out the window, Laura. See that dot on the horizon? It is the last fig I give.
LAURA: Goodbye, Marian. See you when I get back from my honeymoon. I’m so sad I’m not poor and ugly like you, so nobody wanted to marry me.
MARIAN: Yeah, my life is endless sunshine. Good talk.
LAURA: I’m so, so sad, Marian. And so hot. I’m so, so hot. You could never understand.
LAURA: I’m finally back from honeymoon Marian! Turns out marrying a dude who was pure evil, and who I did not love or wish to marry, was kind of a bad decision!
MARIAN: Oh Laura. I love you, but you are not the brightest jewel in the Royal Treasury. Yo, Sir Percy, still evil?
SIR PERCY STILL TOTALLY EVIL: You betcha. Meet Count Fosco, my best friend, and his Countess, Laura’s aunt!
MARIAN: Hey, Auntie Kind Of, didn’t you used to support women’s rights and want the vote?
COUNTESS FOSCO: Well, sure, before my husband brainwashed me! Silly Marian!
MARIAN: Awesome. And this dude is a count, so let’s just start with the baseline assumption that he’s evil. Or a vampire. Or an evil vampire.
COUNT FOSCO: Good assumption.
MARIAN: What a lovely house party at the Fortress of Evil Doompants this is shaping up to be.
COUNT FOSCO: I am fat and jolly and I love animals!
MARIAN: So you’re not evil…?
COUNT FOSCO: Hey sweet thing, what do you think about crime?
MARIAN: It’s wrong. Why, what do you think about crime?
COUNT FOSCO: It pays.
MARIAN: I’m just gonna go.
COUNT FOSCO: Hate to see you go. Loooove to watch you leave.
SIR PERCIVAL LOTS OF SHADY DEBTS: How would it be if you signed this piece of paper I won’t let you read, Laura?
MARIAN: How would it be if I hit you over the head with this large ornate vase, and/or threw you out one of the windows on the upper floors?
LAURA: I think my sister is trying to hint to me that I shouldn’t sign this. I’m not sure about that, though. I’m not very good at hints.
MARIAN: Imma get me some legal advice. Sneaky like.
LAURA: Imma go outside and hang with Anne Catherick, listening to hints about my husband’s dark secrets, until he finds me!
MARIAN: … I cannot leave you alone for one minute.
SIR PERCIVAL GUILTY FRENZY: How would it be if I insulted Marian, called Laura a whore and then locked her in her room, and then ran around the house yelling ‘Nobody will ever know my dark secret!’
COUNT FOSCO: Percy! Percy, I have nothing against evil, but I have two serious problems with your behavior! One, it is not sneaky.
SIR PERCY THE WORST: I’m going to lock up Marian as well.
MARIAN: Oh please try.
COUNT FOSCO: Which brings me to two, Marian is going to CUT US. She is going to take us to the cleaner’s, and the cleaner’s is located downtown, which is where she will be taking us. Down. To China town. Can I get confirmation on this? Marian, what are you planning to do?
MARIAN: Cut you.
COUNT FOSCO: … Just let Laura out of her room.
SIR PERCIVAL SHOWING HIS TRUE COLORS: But Laura knows my secret and she has to be silenced and—
COUNT FOSCO: Let’s talk about silencing your wife forever in the dark, in the library, where Marian can’t hear us.
SIR PERCIVAL NOT EXACTLY MACHIAVELLI: And the library is…
COUNT FOSCO: I’ll draw you a map.
MARIAN: I’m going to sneak over the roofs to eavesdrop on the gents on the verandah.
MARIAN: And I’m going to dress like a NINJA to do it.
MARIAN: And by ‘ninja’ I mean, I’m going to wear… but a SINGLE petticoat. Of a dark color! Can’t see me. Can’t hear me. Quick as a cat!
COUNT FOSCO: So let’s examine the facts. We are evil. Laura is an idiot. Marian is a fierce and foxy lady who loves your idiot wife, which is bad luck for us. She is an obstacle in my path though an ornament to my eyes. Man, that ass, you know what I’m saying? My anaconda don't want none unless you've got buns hon.
SIR PERCY (NOT AN ASS MAN): On task.
COUNT FOSCO: Okay! We both want cash, and yet, we do not want Marian to cut us. How about poisoning Laura?
SIR PERCY WHOA THAT’S A LITTLE EVIL EVEN FOR SIR PERCY: Look, I am not entirely comfortable with actually poisoning my actual wife. Also, we have a problem with this crazy sickly clone of my wife who is spreading my dark secret everywhere.
COUNT FOSCO: Your wife has a crazy sickly clone?... Interesting.
MARIAN: I wonder what fiendish plan they are hatching? Well, I’ve recorded their whole evil conversation, despite getting soaked through, and I’m determined to foil them.
MARIAN: … I’m a dedicated sleuth. I’m hot-blooded. Check it and see. I got a fever of a hundred and three.
MARIAN: … Crud I really do have a fever.
COUNT FOSCO: Dear Marian, Your diary is great reading! Bad luck about the fever, it really has made my evil plans go a lot more smoothly. P.S. Nice ass.
LAURA: I must help nurse Marian!
HOUSEKEPER: Yes, Laura, but the thing is…
LAURA: I am so distressed about Marian I might have hysterics! I feel all faint! I’m coming over all dizzy. Imma swoon!
HOUSEKEEPER: You are useless and annoying. That’s the thing.
LAURA: I am laid up ill due to anxiety over Marian!
HOUSEKEEPER: That’s very helpful, Laura. So Marian is nowhere to be seen.
LAURA: I shall collapse again some more!
HOUSEKEEPER: … Your assistance is invaluable, Laura.
LAURA: So let me get this straight. You’re saying Marian got up from her almost-deathbed to go talk to my uncle about letting me stay at his place because our marriage is a disaster?
SIR PERCY THE UNCONVINCING LIAR: Eheheheheheh. You know that Marian. She’s a pistol!
LAURA: I must go see Marian!
SIR PERCY THE REALLY UNCONVINCING LIAR: That’s in no way part of my evil plan.
HOUSEKEEPER: Hey Marian. Wait a second, Marian hasn’t left the house and you tricked Laura into going to London?
SIR PERCY THE TRULY GODAWFUL LIAR: Certainly not so we could switch Laura and her dying clone!
HOUSEKEEPER: This is some dodgy business. I quit, and in retrospect I should never have taken a job at the Fortress of Evil Doompants.
WALTER: I’ve come back from many daring adventures abroad, which I can’t really describe at this time because writing me as a resourceful survivor would mess with the audience’s suspension of disbelief.
WALTER: I still totally love Laura!
WALTER: And I hear she’s dead.
WALTER: That is such a bummer. Oh Laura, baby. You were so hot. And we could totally have had a conversation. You know. Someday.
WALTER: Here I am at Laura’s grave. Oh girl, miss you. You weren’t all that bright, but you were a sweet kid. And when I think of all the talks we—wait, that was Marian. And when I think of the times we solved myst—no, Marian. And that joke you told that made me laugh until I peed a little—nope, Marian again. Never mind. Great face, girl. Great face.
MARIAN: Hi Walter.
WALTER: Oh my God, Marian! You are EVEN LESS HOT than you used to be! Girl, what happened, why have you not been moisturizing?
MARIAN: Still a charmer, I see.
WALTER: Oh my God, Laura! You’re alive! That’s the good news! The bad news is that you are also less hot.
MARIAN & LAURA: …
WALTER: What have you been up to, girls?
WALTER: Because I gotta tell you, you ladies clearly have not been at the beauty parlor.
EVERYONE ELSE, IN THE PAST: Sorry your sister’s dead, Marian.
MARIAN: There’s much more to all this than there appears.
EVERYONE ELSE: What are you going to do about it, Marian?
MARIAN: I’m going to SLEUTH YOUR BRAINS OUT.
MARIAN: I have located the asylum where Anne Catherick is being kept.
MARIAN: Laura! Holy crap they switched you with your dying clone and trapped you in a madhouse!
LAURA: They sure did! What can we possibly do about this terrible situation? I’m going to have hysterics.
MARIAN: I’m going to plan a jailbreak.
MARIAN: So I plotted, bribed a nurse, broke Laura out of the asylum, and demanded her uncle help us get justice.
LAURA’S UNCLE: That seems like a lot of hassle. Seems like Laura being dead would be easier for everyone.
MARIAN: I do not agree.
LAURA’S UNCLE: Seems like you’re a lady and you don’t count.
WALTER: This is terrible! Don’t worry, Laura, Marian, I’ll handle everything!
MARIAN: Yeah, I’ve been doing so badly handling things. See also: jailbreak.
WALTER: Sweet helpless ladies. Let’s all get a house together. Marian will do all the housework and I’ll earn the money.
LAURA: I am useless!
WALTER: Baby, that’s been true this whole time, I don’t know why it’s bothering you now.
LAURA: You’re going to start liking Marian more than me!
AUDIENCE: We have all been expecting that to happen for hundreds of pages, yes.
WALTER: Baby, baby listen to me. I like useless chicks. Total incompetence at life gets me hot.
LAURA: I am legitimately frustrated with my situation, do not patronize me!
WALTER: How about I patronize you by pretending that your art is good enough to buy, and deceiving you into believing you are contributing to the household?
LAURA: I suppose that would be okay if I never found out about it…
COUNT FOSCO: Hey sexy mama, no sleuthing and you can keep ur sister. Capisce?
MARIAN: … He means deal.
WALTER: Italians are so confusing.
WALTER: But we’ll never submit to his evil threats! Let’s find out Sir Percy’s dark secret.
MARIAN: And blackmail him with it to get Laura re-established.
WALTER: You know, I just meant because then we could give him the finger, but your plan is way better. I’m going to talk to Anne Catherick’s mom and get the secrets out of her through sweet-talkin’!
MARIAN: Sweet-talking? You?
WALTER: What’s your point?
MARIAN: Maybe I better go with you…
WALTER: Marian honestly I am going to be JUST FINE WITHOUT YOU.
WALTER: Maybe I should wear, like, a fake mustache on my sleuthing mission. No, wait, disguises are for sneaks and foreigners.
AUDIENCE: Walter, worst sleuth ever. Marian dressed like a ninja.
WALTER: Sooo. You feel like telling me Sir Percy Evilpants’s secrets to a total stranger?
MRS CATHERICK: Nope!
WALTER: Well, damn.
WALTER: I hear Sir Percy McJerkface was lurking around a church so I’ll go check out the church…
THUGS: *assault Walter*
WALTER AND THUGS: *put in jail*
SIR PERCY, MOFO TO THE END: *tries to burn down a church, gets stuck in it*
SIR PERCY THE DOOMED EVIL IDIOT: *also burns*
WALTER: OMG let me see this burned disfigured corpse!
WALTER: Well, that’s a relief.
VILLAGER: Was he… an enemy of yours?
WALTER: Yes, but the thing is that Laura is like a 7, and he’s like a 4. She’s so out of his league!
VILLAGERS: Okay, Walter ‘Shallow Jerk’ Hartright.
AUDIENCE: Way ahead of you, villagers.
MRS CATHERICK: Hi Walter. So, I totally hated Have Mercy Sir Percy, and I am into the fact you assassinated him.
WALTER: Listen, lady, I assure you that I am totally incapable of successfully planning a picnic, let alone an assassination.
MRS CATHERICK: Baby, let me tell you, if I was a little younger, you’d be like ‘Rock me momma like a wagon wheel, rock me momma any way you feel’ and you’d have been into it. But time and gravity have not been kind, bits are sagging, you’re a shallow jerk, and so I’m just going to tell you that Sir Percy was actually not Sir Percy at all. His parents were never married, he forged an fake marriage record in that church, and that was his guilty secret. Enjoy your gossip, babe, and if you want to come to tea for scones and a little afternoon delight, it’s on.
WALTER: Well, even if Sir Percy wasn’t already dead, I could never have blackmailed him over THAT. That would’ve been wrong.
AUDIENCE: Wuss. Marian would’ve done it.
WALTER: Hey Marian, hey Laura, my mission was a complete failure!
MARIAN: Imagine my surprise.
WALTER: How come you guys moved house?
MARIAN: Oh, the Count totally caught us. I kept it from Laura with my ninja moves.
WALTER: What stuff did the Count say to you?
MARIAN: ‘Wanna love you up and down girl, would give it to you daily and nightly and ever so rightly…’
WALTER: What relevant stuff did the Count say to you?
MARIAN: Basically he was giving us one more chance. He said it was unbearable to think of upsetting a lady, especially a lady with such fine junk in such an outstanding trunk.
WALTER: Whoa. But has he, like, noticed the mustache?
MARIAN: Walter, and I say this with love, STFU.
WALTER: So did you cut him?
MARIAN: Tempted, but I didn’t want to make a fuss and alert Laura. So he said ‘Forever, my love, hail and farewell and I’d love to tap that ass’ and I said ‘Okay good talk…’
WALTER: Well, we’ll get him.
MARIAN: Exactly how?
WALTER: I have not worked that out yet…
WALTER: I must wait to speak of my love.
MARIAN: Until Laura is independent of you, and you can be sure she is making her own decisions?
WALTER: No! Until she is hot again. And she’s looking pretty good right about now…
WALTER: Laura, I’m not sure how to put this, because we’ve never actually had a conversation.
LAURA: Walter, I also find this situation awkward.
MARIAN: Oh for God’s sake. Laura, Walter likes it and he’d like to put a ring on it.
LAURA AND WALTER: Oh sweet sweet love! And sweet sweet never talking about it.
PESCA: Remember me, the Italian friend from the start of the book?
WALTER: Only when I need something! So look, you’re Italian, you guys all know each other, right?
PESCA: Uh, no…?
WALTER: Do you know this evil count?
PESCA: Uh, well… coincidentally yes.
WALTER: Awesome! And you’re Italian, so you have mob connections, right?
PESCA: Not necessarily!... But coincidentally yes.
WALTER: Could you take out a hit on him?
PESCA: Walter! … Okay, yes.
WALTER: I’m going to go visit Count Fosco and put the fear of the mob into him.
MARIAN: Imma come with you.
WALTER: No way, little lady.
MARIAN: But you said we were a team…
WALTER: Lied like a rug!
MARIAN: … Eff you, Walter.
COUNT FOSCO: Okay, since the alternative is being killed by the mob, I’m going to write a confession of everything I did to Laura. Boy did I do a lot! Boy am I evil! But I have awesome taste in women. And one more thing…?
WALTER: Are you sorry for any of it?
COUNT FOSCO: Lord no. But Miss Halcombe the Hotass. You gotta cherish her, buddy. That ass is an ass of immortal gorgeousness. She should get that bronzed.
WALTER: Sadly for Count Fosco, the mob totally iced him anyway.
LAURA: And my identity was re-established.
LAURA: Amazing news, honey bunny sweetiepie munchkin, my uncle is dead and we are rich, baby, rich!
MARIAN: And I will never marry and stay with you guys forever, because I’m afraid you fall down and hurt yourselves when I’m not looking.
WALTER: And so I end my tale with both the rich hot lady I want to bang, and the awesome lady I want to talk to. Woo-hoo! Everything’s coming up Walter!
AUDIENCE: … Eff you, Walter.
The great thing about The Woman In White is that Wilkie Collins received a huge bunch of letters from gentlemen describing their position in life and fine estates, and asking who the lady Marian Halcombe was based on was, and whether she would accept their hands in marriage.
Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Irish aristocrat and revolutionary, called his yacht Marian Halcombe ‘after the brave girl in the story.’
Dudes went CRAZY for Marian. People sneer at ladies for loving Edward in Twilight, but loving a fictional character is not just for ladies.
Holly Black’s advice on romance is “You cannot date a boy in a book. But you can date a boy who LOVES BOOKS. And that is what you should do. Because he will prioritize not just reading but also the things about books that make fictional boys appealing. A sense of romance and adventure and narrative drive. He is probably looking for someone from a book too.”
So I feel The Woman In White does a lot of stuff, but the two things I took away: seeing a girl not running, not scared, not trapped, but trying to figure all the crazy Gothical stuff out, was AWESOME.
And guys can love an imaginary lady.
This is why a sleuthing lady and a boy who lives and loves people largely in his imagination are the stars of Unspoken.